An Explanation

I'm asked: why on earth are you doing this? You must be mad! First, a nod to one's childhood, where Mr.Hitler seems always to have been. And he is still ever present in newspapers and on radio and T.V.

Born in the year of Munich and Appeasement, I lived through the greatest upheaval in human history with contented acceptance of War as a natural state of affairs and oblivious of pre-war freedoms, comforts and luxuries.

Hitler was a distant bogeyman, as Napoleon had once been, to be mocked in the playground, finger under nose, right arm extended. The very sound of his and his henchmen's names rang strangely, with cold menace! A best friend's cat was called Schicklgruber. I didn't quite know why. German planes, would off-load the occasional bomb on a near-by wood or large department-store. No-one died. Ruins to gawp at. Thrillng times for children, far from the firing line.

Only later did the full deep horror of the time one had lived through so happily penetrate the mind: the vileness of the Holocaust, glimpsed on film and even reflected in the small classroom incident of a Jewish Refugee schoolmaster beating one of my fellow pupils to the ground for decorating his exercise-book with a swastika. Montgomery of Alamein visited school and told us how he "beat Wommel". Old Boy Sir Alan Bullock lectured on the July bomb plot, acting out all the grisly details. His book on Hitler I read with appalled excitement, fascinated by the F├╝hrer's demonic energy. Genius gone haywire. I was intrigued how a man from nowhere could rise to lead one of the most civilised of nations on a quest for world-domination, extermination and enslavement.

Then, of course, there is an actor's attraction to embodying Evil - banal it may be, but challenging. A prolonged stay with the Royal Shakespeare Company made me aware how the House Dramatist would have leapt on a monster like Adolf. Mr. W.S. was at home with the Heaven & Hell of man's duality and knew how to give life to a villain's rampage. He relished men's inconsistencies, there wit, their dynamism, their tragic flaws. He crops up, directly or obliquely, throughout my show. Another nod to my past.

Paul Webster